Azerbaijan or the Republic of Azerbaijan is a country in the South Caucasus at the crossroads of Eastern Europe and Western Asia bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west and Iran to the south. Azerbaijan is a unitary semi-presidential republic. It is one of six independent Turkic states and an active member of the Turkic Council and the TÜRKSOY community.
More than 89% of the population is Shia Muslim and all major political forces in the country are secularist. Republic of Azerbaijan has the second highest Shia population percentage in the world after Iran. Azerbaijan is rich with oil money, hence high rate of economic development and literacy, as well as a low rate of unemployment. However, the ruling party, the New Azerbaijan Party, in power since 1993, has been accused of authoritarian leadership and deteriorating the country’s human rights record, including increasing restrictions on civil liberties, particularly on press freedom and political repression.
Baku is the capital and largest city of Azerbaijan and the largest city on the Caspian Sea and of the Caucasus region. Baku is located 28 meters (92 ft) below sea level, which makes it the lowest lying national capital in the world and also the largest city in the world located below sea level. Baku lies on the southern shore of the Absheron Peninsula, alongside the Bay of Baku. At the beginning of 2009, Baku’s urban population was estimated at just over two million people. Baku, as a city depict the intersection of modern and old where where silver buildings interspersed with sand-colored mosques and souks, set back against the arid landscape.
Baku is one of the most important tourist destinations in the Caucasus, with hotels in the city earning 7 million euros in 2009. Many sizable world hotel chains have a presence in the city. Baku has many popular tourist and entertainment spots, such as the downtown Fountains Square, the One and Thousand Nights Beach, Shikhov Beach and Oil Rocks. There are places close to Baku like Yanar Dag, where you can see eternal flames billowing out of the ground, or even from the water; an ever-blazing spot of natural gas.
Baku has several shopping malls; the most famous city center malls are Port Baku, Park Bulvar, Ganjlik Mall, Metro Park, 28 MALL, Aygun city and AF MALL. The retail areas contain shops from chain stores up to high-end boutiques.
The city is listed 48th in the 2011 list of the most expensive cities in the world conducted by the Mercer Human Resource Consulting. It’s Nizami Street and also the Neftchilar Avenue are one of the most expensive streets in the world.
Baku is blessed with hot and humid summers, cool and occasionally wet winters, and strong winds all year long. However, unlike many other cities with such climate features, Baku does not see extremely hot summers and substantial sunshine hours. This is largely because of its northerly latitude and the fact that it is located on a peninsula on the shore of the Caspian Sea. The majority of the light annual precipitation of around 8 inches occurs in seasons other than summer, but none of these seasons is particularly wet. During Soviet times, The city’s past as a Soviet industrial center has left it as one of the most polluted cities in the world.
Explore the Old City of Baku
The Old City of Baku, also known as the Walled City of Baku, refers to the ancient Baku settlement. Most of the walls and towers, strengthened after the Russian conquest in 1806, survived. This section is picturesque, with its maze of narrow alleys and ancient buildings: the cobbled streets past the Palace of the Shirvanshahs, two caravansaries, the baths and the Juma Mosque (which used to house the Azerbaijan National Carpet and Arts Museum but is now a mosque again). The old town core also has dozens of small mosques, often without any particular sign to distinguish them as such.
In 2003, UNESCO placed the Inner City on the List of World Heritage in Danger, citing damage from a November 2000 earthquake, poor conservation as well as “dubious” restoration efforts. In 2009 the Inner City was removed from the List of World Heritage in Danger.
Parks and Gardens
Baku has large sections of greenery preserved by the National Government as designated green zones. The city, however, continues to lack a green belt development as economic activity pours into the capital, resulting in massive housing projects along the suburbs.
Baku Boulevard is a pedestrian promenade that runs parallel to Baku’s seafront. The boulevard contains an amusement park, yacht club, musical fountain, statues and monuments. The park is popular with dog-walkers and joggers, and is convenient for tourists. It is adjacent to the newly built International Centre of Mugham and the musical fountain.
Other prominent parks and gardens to check out include Heydar Aliyev Park, Samad Vurgun Park, Narimanov Park, Alley of Honor and the Fountains Square. The Martyrs’ Lane, formerly the Kirov Park, is dedicated to the memory of those who lost their lives during the Nagorno-Karabakh War and also to the 137 people killed on Black January.
The city has many amenities that offer a wide range of cultural activities, drawing both from a rich local dramatic portfolio and an international repertoire. In 2007 the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Centre designed by famous Iraqi-British architect, Zaha Hadid, was opened. The building contains a museum and conference center with rotating exhibitions. Baku also boasts many museums such as Baku Museum of Modern Art and Azerbaijan State Museum of History, most notably featuring historical artifacts and art. Many of the city’s cultural sites were celebrated in 2009 when Baku was designated an Islamic Culture Capital. Baku was chosen to host the Eurovision Dance Contest 2010. It has also become the first city hosting the first European Games in 2015.
Baku is home to restaurants catering to every cuisine and occasion. Restaurants range from luxurious and expensive to ordinary and affordable. Baku’s most experiential restaurant doubles as a museum, so while sampling the delights of Azerbaijani cuisine, expect to be taken on a journey through the city’s recent history.